Believers, let’s resolve to never give up; never give up on walking with God. Never give into despair, doubt and unbelief. Never cut our years short or decide to embrace a misguided lifestyle, with its dark feelings, as an intentional way to spend time. Keep on resisting evil. Keep on choosing hope. Move away from the downside and toward the upside and the goodness of God. To be trapped in difficulties, not knowing precisely how to get free, is one thing; to love darkness and embrace it with gusto as a chosen lifestyle is something altogether different.
I am writing to anyone held captive to one sort of problem or another; people longing for victory and not sure where to find it. God has great compassion for you and He is more than willing to help. As for the other group, those who have abandoned themselves to dark activities; I assume those folks who love missing the mark do not “feel like giving up” and would never read this article. On the other hand, people who “feel like giving up” are seeking change, looking for answers and want hope, encouragement, and light; they’re looking for ways to move forward into a better future. Those are the folks I’m speaking to.
So those of us who are feeling disappointed or even depressed and despairing, let’s get reappointed. When we feel despair, let’s seek God for repair. Let’s hang onto his promises by the power of His Spirit as though our lives depend on it… because they do. Faith in God is our lifeline. God is our anchor in the storm. He paid the price for our victory by the suffering of His Son. So let’s receive what He paid such a terrible price to gain on our behalf. If you don’t quit you can’t lose. We enter in to all God has for us through faith. Faith is precious to God. It’s key to the Kingdom. Never lose faith, but rather exercise it and it will grow stronger.
What to Give Up
As I mentioned in Part 1, there’s another side of the coin. Though we never want to give ourselves over to evil and we never want to give up on walking with God, there is a certain kind of giving up that is beneficial. Let me explain. In a nutshell, it’s this: We need to quit trying to perform in order to gain some sort of assurance that we’re OK in God’s eyes and that he loves us. When we quit trying to behave well to gain peace about who we are, we have made a useful choice, a productive decision. Why? Our motivation is misguided. It is a waste of time to exercise our own self-effort toward trying to get the love that God has already freely given to us. We’ll never get there from here. We are not recognizing or receiving what is already there for the taking. We are not seeing clearly. If we keep striving to get what we were already given, we do not understand how to receive what is right in front of our faces. When we are living under the law, trying to work our way into getting a free gift, we are not grasping how to live by faith. That striving has got to stop. We are misunderstanding God’s heart toward us and not recognizing the victory he already won on our behalf. We are standing on a shaky ground that will not give us stable footing.
The Bible tells us that while we were yet sinners God loved us and sent his Son to die for us. He loved us first, before we cried out to Him, before we thought about him, before we were even born. He gave us his love as a free gift. He loves us just because he chose to do so. He loves us because it is His nature to love. He loved us before we ever did anything to deserve it.
It’s similar to how parents love their newborn child. When a baby is born into the world a healthy parent will love that child before the infant ever does anything good or bad. Parents love their children just because the children are theirs, bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh. And they don’t quit loving their child when the child messes up. The love parents have for their children is a reflection of the greater love Father God has for us. We are made in the image of God. And beyond that, when people become believers we become His children for He puts His own Spirit within us. If we as human parents love our children and tenderly watch over them before they’ve done anything to earn it, how much more does God love us in a similar way?!
Receiving His Love
So the point is this: We need to quit trying and start receiving. We need to grasp and experience the love God has for us in a way that fills up our internal emptiness. As our love tanks get filled up we will then respond to God, to life and to our problems with new strength based on the love He has poured into us and by relying on His strength. “We love because He first loved us.” We can’t live on what we do not have. As we fill up our hearts with the love of God we delight to love God back. Overcome by His goodness and thrilled with His mercy we are empowered by His Spirit to live differently. We love God back and do things His way.
An analogy here in earthly relationships would be to consider how a young man wins the heart of a young woman he would like to marry. How does He do it? He loves her. He pours his attention and affection on her. She notices and responds. She says, “Yes.” That’s like Christ and the church. God loves us and pours his affection upon us so intensely that we just can’t help but love Him back. And when we love Him back we are giving back to Him the love He put into us in the first place. It takes the form of hope, productivity, kindness, joy, helpfulness and all kinds of other positive expressions; but it’s all love, love offered back to the One who loved us first.
When we try to get what we were already given we are living like orphans rather than living as adopted sons and daughters of Father God. As we retool our motivation in life we abandon striving. We enter God’s rest. We begin doing the right thing for the right reason relying on His strength rather than on our own self-effort. Our days become easier to manage. We embrace the love of God and He empowers us to joyfully love Him back. We get free of self-effort and begin training in living by the power of His Spirit instead. It’s His ability exchanged for our inability; now that’s a good trade!
Eyes on Jesus
Much of the religious world is striving away, trying to follow all the rules to make life work and to make God happy, thinking if they can just do it right, or mostly right, or at least more right than other people, they’ll finally get to a good place. It doesn’t work. Why not? It’s a strategy lacking the knowledge of love of God and focused on self. How self is performing or not performing. As long as we’re focused on self we aren’t going to get there from here. All this performing, measuring and comparing just never ends; it preoccupies us with ourselves, and puts our attention on ourselves. The answer comes as we fix our eyes on Jesus.
So the good news is that as we get our attention off of ourselves and our performance and onto Him, we receive his love and walk by his Spirit. We are changed and we receive His strength. The more we open up to Him, the more we experience the real, palpable love of God and the more of His love fills our hearts, the more we delight in loving Him back. We love because he first loved us. We have hope because he gives it to us. We obey Him because we love Him. Our obedience is born of love filled hearts not born of insecurity. Our feet are set on solid ground. He is that ground. He is the rock that cannot be shaken. So let us quit trying to get what we already have been given and learn how to receive what God freely gives. As we learn to receive we will gladly give back and we will find ourselves in a new place of living in His strength.
Photos from Pixabay.com
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